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"Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread."
– Edward Abbey  
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  Volume No. 16 Issue No. 9 September 2019  

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Bill Radford

  Snakes, ducks, kittens — oh, my
  By Bill Radford

   Longtime local journalist Bill Radford and his wife, Margaret, live on 5 acres in the Falcon area with ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, two noisy parrots, goats and two horses. Contact Bill at billradford3@gmail.com.

   Elsewhere in this issue, you'll find Mark's Meanderings. I'm going to be meandering a lot myself this month. We'll call it Radford's Ruminations; that sounds a lot more engaging than my other thought, which was Bill's Blitherings.
   
   Snakes alive! When we lived in the Springs, we had a fish pond that constantly attracted snakes; one of our son's favorite pursuits when he was little was to pull out of the rocks and proudly display a garter snake from around the pond. Out here in the prairie, snake sightings are less common. But a bullsnake was recently spotted down the road from our house, doing its best to pretend it was a rattlesnake, and I found another bullsnake — about 4 feet long — leisurely winding its way through the front yard on a sunny afternoon.
   
   The Environmental Division of the El Paso Community Services Department offers this useful information on bullsnakes on its Facebook page:
   
   "Bullsnakes (aka gopher snakes) and western rattlesnakes are two species that are often confused when encountered. Both species occur within El Paso County and can look and behave in a similar fashion. Bullsnakes will often assume a defensive posture like a rattlesnake in an attempt to mimic their more dangerous counterparts. These snakes will take this mimicry further to the point of shaking their tails in dry leaves or grass in order to create a 'rattling' sound. Additionally, coloration and patterning of western rattlesnakes and bullsnakes is also often similar. … Although individuals exhibit a great deal of variability, the general identifying characteristics of rattlesnakes include rattles at the end of the tail, broad triangular-shaped heads with narrow necks, facial pits near the nostrils and vertical cat-like pupils. Bullsnakes lack rattles at the end of the tail, tend to have a head and neck of the same width although they can spread their heads out to mimic rattlesnakes, lack facial pits and have round pupils."
   
   Critter connections: We have some new additions to the Radford Ranch menagerie.
   
   We lost one of our two female ducks last fall. We had nursed Honey the duck through bumblefoot, only to have her die when she became egg bound. That left us with two males and one female, not a good ratio for the female. So as spring came, we intensified our hunt for another girl and got one at the Critter Swap at Big R. We have cleverly named her The New Duck. She has fitted in well with the other ducks, but unfortunately, Quackers, one of the boys, still has amorous intentions toward the chickens. So birds and chickens remain separated.
   
   We also have a new kitten. He also came after a loss: Montana, one of our two cats, died suddenly of a blood clot. His death was a shock, and we had no intention of getting another cat right away. But we were worried that the remaining cat, Miles, might be lonely, and then someone told us about a woman seeking homes for a batch of kittens.
   
   The new kitten's name is Babu; in Nepal, that’s a term of endearment for a little boy. Our daughter came home in June from more than two years serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal, so the name is a tip of the hat to her experience. (In Googling Babu, I also found a movie, "Nepali Babu," touted as "a super-hit movie featuring super stars like Bhuwan KC, Jal Sha, and Sunil Thapa," and a game, "Nepali Babu Adventure.")
   
   Babu is a tireless, claw-wielding ball of fur who is always ready to pounce on, and wrestle with, Miles. Miles puts up with it for the most part, but it's possible he would have preferred being lonely.
   
   City mouse, country mouse: In our half-dozen years in the country, we've come to appreciate the wide-open vistas; the houses in town now seem so crammed together. So it has been surprising how much my wife, Margaret, and I appreciate a touch of suburbia that I brought to the property this summer.
   
   We already had a fenced-in side yard where we could lounge and let the dogs hang out. But quarreling dogs led me to build another fence in the backyard, right outside our sliding glass door. This way dogs could all be out but separated if necessary.
   
   But it also resulted in another part of the property to enjoy. The back of the house faces west, so we can now sit in the backyard and gaze at the mountains in the distance with the sliding glass door wide open; that means the dogs can run in and out and the house can more quickly cool when the evening breezes arrive. It also helps that we had plenty of snow and rain this spring, which means we can look out on a beautiful, green pasture instead of the brown dust bowl that was there last summer. We had part of the pasture seeded early this spring; a neighbor called it "a costly gamble," but it's a gamble that has paid off.
  
Bullsnakes are often confused with rattlers.
 
Miles the cat with his new kitten buddy, Babu. Photos by Bill Radford
 
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